ST. PETER, Minn. -- Rural Minnesotans are keeping up with the times and technology, a study by the Center for Rural Policy and Development shows.

More rural families are buying computers, Internet and broadband services, thus bridging the "digital divide" between rural and urban areas.

Despite limited service in rural areas and therefore higher costs, between 2001 and 2003 the number of rural households with a computer rose from 60 percent to 65 percent, according to the Rural Minnesota Internet Survey. Internet use is up from 46 percent to 57.5 percent.

Home broadband use in rural areas is estimated at 15 percent in 2003, comparable to the rural nation's 16 percent, according to the PEW Internet &; American Life Project.

The gap in who has Internet and who doesn't seems to be more generational than geographical. Older residents are less likely to own a computer, use the Internet or purchase broadband services. Residents with low incomes are also less likely to be connected.

The studies show that time online is increasing, too, at an average of 20.6 hours a week for broadband users and 11.5 for dial-up users. While the average price of broadband has decreased from last year, 40 percent of dial-up users said they have not switched because broadband is still too expensive.

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